The GOSPEL TRUTH
WALKING IN THE SPIRIT
A Liberating Commentary on Romans 6, 7 and 8
George E. (Jed) Smock
This book is written for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Only men seeking first the Kingdom of God and His goodness will be interested in these writings. The purpose of this commentary is to remove every cloak under which the sinner, especially the religious sinner, is hiding.
No one has to sin! Anyone who is walking in the Spirit is living a life far removed from sin. Anyone with sin in his life has no Biblical basis to consider himself a Christian. From the moment of conversion to Christianity until the end of a man's life, he can and should live a life of holiness and righteousness.
No one has the right to sin! The Bible is a call to holiness from Genesis to Revelation. Would a just God command man to obey, but at the same time teach that complete obedience is impossible? It is imperative that we understand this point, if we are going to correctly comprehend the Bible. Any Biblical interpretation which gives man space to sin is an erroneous conclusion.
God is a reasonable and logical being. We are made in His image, and He expects us to approach His Written Word intelligently. It is a basic fact of logic that truth cannot contradict itself. Therefore, if our conclusions are self-contradictory, we may assume that we are in error. It is amazing how fundamentalists will fervently defend the view that there are no contradictions in the Bible, but overlook contradictions in their own doctrines.
Bible commentators are more likely to stumble over Romans chapter 7 than any other passage of Scripture. After writing forceful expositions on holiness from Romans chapter 6, they reach the pitiful conclusion that Romans 7:14-25 is the normal experience of the devout Christian. Usually Romans 8 gets them somewhat back on track, but there is no plausible way that the wretched-slave existence described in chapter 7 can be simultaneously experienced with the victory and freedom described in Romans 6 and 8.
There are two options for the one whose life does not conform to the Biblical standard of holiness: an individual may lower the requirement so that it corresponds to his present conduct; or he may raise his behavior to match the Biblical standard. When it comes to studying Romans 6 through 8, few professing Christians are able to identify with Romans 6 or 8. However, they do relate to the struggles expressed in Romans 7. They also assume that everybody in their church is going through the same conflict with sin which they are personally experiencing. Therefore, they conclude that Romans 7 must describe a Christian, because it is the only Christianity they know.
There is always a great amount of subjectivity in reading and interpreting the Bible. This is unavoidable. The danger comes when we assume our experiences are universal. If we find ourselves in association with an assembly where everyone is still sinning, it is time to seek new fellowship and, even more importantly, to seek God. All Christians should be able to identify with the testimony of John and his associates: We keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight (I John 3:22).
Somehow the church has acquired the notion that it is prideful to confess to living a righteous life, but humble to confess to sinning daily in thought, word and deed. One problem is that people have self-righteousness confused with the righteousness of God. When believed from the heart, God's righteousness always produces an actual righteousness in the life of the confessor. There is no righteousness in the life that is lived independent of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the professed follower of Christ to confess that he will habitually sin until death is not humility -- it is the height of arrogance. The Biblical command is to forsake all sin as a condition of salvation, not to be a habitual sinner.
There is a general misunderstanding of spiritual warfare in our generation. The Christian's warfare is not an inner struggle with sin, in which he hopes to have more victories than defeats; at the point of true repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, sin receives its death blow. The Christian's battle is with temptation. His war with sin is not from within, but from without. He is to be fighting against sin in the world, not within himself. Christian combat is an offensive battle against sin, not a defensive one.
What would we think of a Commander-in-Chief who taught his countrymen at war that the enemy was always bound to be within the nation's boundaries? Any leader worth his salt is going to settle for nothing less than a complete routing of the enemy. The aggressive commander will not stop at the enemy's border, but will pursue him into his territory and demand unconditional surrender.
What a disgrace that we have church leaders teaching that a Christian will always have sin in his life! Hypocrites professing Christianity, yet continuing to sin, are God's most dangerous enemies. They are moles who should not be tolerated on the grounds of the church. The church would be better served with agnostics and atheists than these creepers.
Anyone who makes peace with an enemy within his borders is, at best, a coward and, at worst, a traitor. Professing Christians who allow any vestige of sin to remain in their lives are not fit for the Kingdom. Such descendants of Judas must either repent or be denounced and forbidden to continue to weaken the Army of God.
Walking in the Spirit is written for the purpose of exposing the false notion that sin and righteousness can co-exist in the life of a Christian, or of anyone, for that matter. Defenders of that diabolical doctrine appeal most often to Romans 7 to support their defeatist dogma. My strategy is to attack this doctrine by teaching from the very text its proponents use, but in context with its surrounding passages.
More than Conquerors
Taking scriptures out of context is one of the most frequent and dangerous errors of exegesis. When Romans chapter 7 is removed from its connection with Romans 6 and 8, it can mean just about the opposite of what Paul intended. As an accomplished artist paints shade in his pictures to heighten the effect of the light, so the apostle interjects in the latter part of Romans 7 a vivid description of the tyrannical power of sin (I am carnal sold under sin) and of the unbearable burden of guilt (O wretched man that I am!). Paul's sketch of the man who groans under the vexing yoke of sin is penciled in merely for contrast to set off the amazing difference there is between the bondage of the law of sin and death and the spirit of life and righteousness in Christ Jesus. Let us never get the glorious portrait of the Christian of Romans 6 and 8 confused with the ugly sketch of the sinner of Romans 7 trying, but failing, to serve God under the law.
Not only must the Biblical interpreter consider the context of a passage in question, but he must judge the general purpose and scope of the writer. A basic theme of Paul in Romans and all of his epistles is to promote righteousness and condemn sin (Romans 1:16-17, 2:5. 3:21, 5:19, 6:18-19, 8:4, 14:7). Interpreting the person described in the latter part of Romans 7 as any kind of Christian excuses sin and discourages righteousness.
Paul had a penchant for using military terminology to describe the Christian warfare. He was likely familiar with one of the greatest spectacles of ancient Rome: the official triumph of a returning Roman general who had slain at least 5,000 of the enemy. The grand procession formed outside the city of Rome and entered through a triumphal arch. Trumpeters led the march; next in line were floats representing the defeated cities and pictures portraying the exploits of the victors; then wagons rolled by loaded with gold, silver, works of art and other spoils of war; followed by seventy white oxen walking blindly toward their sacrificial death; then the minor officers, harpers, pipers and incense-bearers. After them rode the conqueror himself in a triumphal chariot, wearing a purple toga and a crown of gold, and bearing an ivory scepter and a laurel branch. In contrast, the captive king who followed on foot, burdened with chains, made a striking part of the show. Last, came the legions carrying their awards and each one wearing a crown. After the parade, the general mounted the Capitol to the Temple of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, laid his loot at the feet of the gods, offered an animal in sacrifice and ordered the subjugated king to be slain as an additional thank-offering. Parties, receptions and audiences before the emperor and senate waited the returning hero.
It would seem impossible for anyone lining the parade route to have mistaken the vanquished king for the conquering general. It seems almost as impossible that any honest and intelligent reader could err so blantantly by attributing the enslaved man described in Romans 7 to the triumphant Christian of Romans 6 and 8.
No Roman would have had any excuses for the vanquished king. The senate would not have considered paying reparations to him for the rest of his life. He would not be put on the lecture circuit to be admired as a man with a message. He would not be acclaimed as a model for the military strategists to study and emulate. This disgraced and defeated king was considered worthy of nothing but an ignominious death.
So should the loser characterized in Romans 7 be put to death and not set up as any sort of example of a Christian at any stage of development. Let us acclaim and broadcast the victorious Christian of Romans 6 and 8 and not give any credibility to the miserable wretch of Romans 7. Paul claimed, we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). Let it never be said by the conquering Christian, That which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I (Romans 7:15). This is the language of the defeatist, the coward, the sinner.
The Bible is full of examples of how God commanded not only the utter destruction of the military enemy, but also a complete purging of sin among those called His people.
Seven nations inhabited the promised land which God commanded Israel to possess. And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them (Deuteronomy 7:2).
In obedience to the Lord, Joshua quickly achieved a miraculous victory at Jericho. Afterwards, Israel suffered a shocking defeat at Ai because Achan had partaken from the accursed spoils of war at Jericho. Consequently, God had withdrawn His blessing from Israel. Therefore, God ordered Moses to sanctify the people and stone to death Achan and burn his body. After Achan's execution, the LORD turned from the fierceness of His anger (Joshua 7:26). Joshua again attacked Ai, utterly destroyed the city and hanged the king.
In America's early history, Christianity was a dominant influence in our culture and institutions. Today, Christianity has been usurped by humanism and secularism because there is sin in the visible church. The church must sanctify herself and put to death Achan, if she is going to stand against her enemies.
After the defeat of Ai, the Gibeonites, by the ruse of rags and stale bread, tricked Joshua into a protective treaty. Later, in the time of Solomon, Gibeon became a favorite "high place" of idolatrous worship for Israel.
Today many, with nothing more than a Romans 7 experience, profess Christianity and play upon the sympathies of pastors, even maneuvering themselves into positions of leadership and setting up "high places" of worship to a god of their own imagination who excuses sin.
God commanded King Saul, Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. Saul defeated the Amalekites but spared their king, Agag, and the best of their livestock. Despite Saul's rebellion, he still tried to convince Samuel that he had obeyed the commandment of the LORD; but neither Samuel, nor God, accepted his partial obedience. And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, He hath also rejected thee from being king (I Samuel 15:22 23). Samuel then called for Agag, who thought he had escaped death, and cut him to pieces with his sword.
Are not our pulpits filled today with ministers who, like King Saul, are satisfied with partial obedience? Are not our pews filled with Agags who offer the sacrifices of praise and worship, but have not come to true repentance? Like Agag, they say, Surely the bitterness of death is past (I Samuel 15:32). "Surely, we will not be damned." But surely they are deceived and will come to a bitter end, unless some Samuels rise up who wield the sword of Truth and put to death Agags' fleshly, carnal appetites before the angel of death casts them to perdition.
When Israel abode in Shittim, the men committed whoredom with the daughters of Moab, and Israel sacrificed to their idols. God was so angry He ordered Moses to hang the whoremongers. Meanwhile, as Israel was weeping before the door of the tabernacle, an Israelite named Zimri and a Midianitish woman named Cozbi began to fornicate in the sight of Moses and the congregation of Israel. Thank God, a man of Israel called Phinehas rose up from the worshippers, took a javelin in his hand, ran to the lewd couple and thrust the javelin through the back of the man into the belly of the whore. So the plague was stopped among Israel, but not before 24,000 died. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned My wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for My sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in My jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him My covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel (Numbers 25:1013). Evidently, Phinehas was a type of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.
As Christendom mourns over our porno-plagued culture, the fornication and adultery running rampant in our sanctuaries of praise and worship is overlooked. My prayer is that this book will become a javelin in the hands of some Phinehases who will thrust the Truth into the hearts of those who have ears dull from hearing a gospel that makes place for sin in the lives of those who claim to be Christians.
The Nature of Christianity
Among professed Christians, there are two distinct views of salvation. They are represented by two different schools of "believers," both of whom claim to be members of Christ's church.
One school sees salvation primarily as forgiveness for sin in order to reach Heaven. Meanwhile on earth, "miserable sinners" strive to obey, but have no hope of overcoming "indwelling sin," until death. After accepting Jesus as one's personal Savior from Hell, man struggles to make Christ the Lord of his life. There is a definite distinction between man's standing before God and his actual state or condition. This means that even though God considers man justified and righteous, man continues to sin daily in thought, word and deed. Our works definitely play no part in our relationship with God or our ultimate destiny. This view is the majority opinion in American Christendom at the close of the Second Millennium. Because of the dominance of this school of thought, Christianity has become a weak influence on our culture and institutions.
The other school views Christianity as a right relationship with God. Salvation includes complete deliverance from the power of sin in this present life, and forgiveness of the penalty of sin, which is eternal damnation. The redeemed challenge man to repent and turn to God, through faith in Jesus as both Lord of one's life and Savior from all sin. True saints believe that one cannot be considered justified or righteous in the sight of God without being pure in heart and life. If Christianity is going to be a powerful influence into the twenty first century, this understanding of Christianity must once again prevail.
Both schools of thought have appealed to selected verses from the book of Romans to affirm their understanding of the gospel. Controversy concerning the nature of the gospel is nothing new. The church at Rome was rife with doctrinal strife and disagreement. In the first five chapters of Romans, the Apostle Paul emphatically defends the gospel of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He denies that there is any hope for sinners to be justified by the law, which they had broken. He exposes and condemns false teaching which threatened to put the Roman church under bondage to the rites and rituals of Judaism. Romans chapters 6, 7 and 8 represent the very heart of Paul's epistle. In these chapters, he explains man's failure under law, and, under grace, his mastery over sin.
In chapter 5, Paul shows that because natural law (the law of reason and conscience) was broken by Adam and his descendants, eventually the written law, the law of Moses, was given to the Jews. Because man had failed to live sensibly by responding to the influences of reason and conscience, God put everything down in writing, so there would be no more misunderstanding of what He expected from man and what man could expect from Him. The written law gave God the opportunity to plainly show man His true character. Its moral precepts reveal the Holiness of God; its penalties pronounce His Justice; its sacrifices herald His desire to pardon the awful penalty of sin. All the commandments, especially the first four, reveal God's longing for a special, loving relationship and delightful fellowship with man.
Paul writes, The law entered, that the offence might abound. God had made the way plain: Do these things and live (Romans 10:5). God established a system of animal sacrifices as object lessons to show the awfulness of sin. These blood sacrifices also pointed man to the Savior Messiah who was to come. The people acknowledged the goodness of the law and promised to obey (Deuteronomy 6:24; Exodus 24:3). But, alas, they quickly rebelled. Therefore, sin abounded all the more. Since they had rejected greater light, their guilt and responsibility multiplied. Blame is always measured in the light of knowledge. Therefore, the law brought even more of God's wrath on man; and the law became a curse instead of a blessing.
Paul concludes chapter 5 with the startling statement: But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. Sin provided God with the astonishing opportunity to demonstrate His nature and character in an even more revealing way than the law ever could have done. The failure of man under the law gave God the occasion to commend His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Grace abounded to undeserving sinners! The greater the sin, the more bounteous the grace that was needed to forgive. But God's grace offered much more than forgiveness. It extended deliverance (freedom) from the power of sin and death. It gave man a restored relationship, renewed fellowship and revitalized communion with his glorious Creator. It empowered man to live the abundant life that our Lord promised to all who follow Him. In Romans 6, Paul unfolds the might and victory experienced by all who believe the gospel and obey the Truth.
Warning! Before you read another word! Are you ready for true freedom from sin? If you are content to dabble in sin here and indulge there, do not turn another page! Do not read any further! Do you really want the abundant life, joy unspeakable and peace that passes understanding? Or are you content to struggle along naming the name of Christ and yet living a frustrating, embarrassing and defeated life? If you read on, you will be accountable for the truth God reveals; and a refusal to act will bring greater damnation. Will you take up your bed and walk? Will you be made whole? Will you walk in the Spirit? You have the freedom to choose....
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